A Beginners Guide to Stem Cells
For anyone visiting this site who doesn’t have a basic knowledge of what stem cell research is about, here’s a brief fact sheet that will help clarify things a bit.
Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated biological cells that have the ability to differentiate into specialized cell types and eventually divide to create more stem cells. There are generally two types: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
What are embryonic stem cells?
The stem cells come from four to five-day-old human embryos in the blastocyst development phase. Most of these embryos have been created in IVF clinics, where a number of eggs are fertilized but only one has actually been used.
What are adult stem cells?
Also called somatic stem cells, these exist throughout the human body long after embryonic development and can be found in various organs and types of tissue, including the brain, the bone marrow, skin, skeletal muscles, blood and blood vessels, and the liver, where they remain undifferentiated until activated by a disease or some type of tissue damage.
What are iPS cells?
Induced pluripotent stem cells are somatic cells that have been genetically reverted to an embryonic state. They can be used to develop new drugs and model difficult diseases.
Why are stem cells useful?
Because these cells are undifferentiated and can be induced into becoming a particular cell type, this technology offers the hope of a renewable source for replacement cells to treat diseases, disorders, and conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, burns, stroke, dramatic brain injury, and cancer.